Mason Mingus (@Mason_Mingus) once again showed the strength of his Win-Tron Racing team at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway in the postponed Kroger 250 late Sunday afternoon, but a turn three incident on Lap 92 halted the team’s opportunity to post a strong finish in the second race of the 2014 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) season.
On the heels of a private test session at the 0.526-mile oval the week prior the race, the Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender and former ARCA champion crew chief Mark Rette left the racetrack with an optimistic outlook.
When practice began on Friday, March 28, Mingus steadily groomed his No. 35 Call 811 Before You Dig Toyota Tundra up to speed and during the two hour and forty five minute session, the Brentwood, Tennessee native negotiated the 19th quickest lap.
After consulting with Rette, the team entered final practice a few hours later with a number of changes, hoping that the team’s No. 35 Call 811 Before You Dig Toyota Tundra would grip more to the track. Scattered rain showers however, would plague the final session, only allowing Mingus to maneuver 48 laps around the track. Despite only maneuvering the 26th fastest lap, the team was confident that they were heading in the right direction and looked forward to Saturday, which consisted of both qualifying and the race.
However, when teams arrived on Saturday, they were greeted with heavy overcast and relentless rains showers, which ultimately forced NASCAR officials to cancel knockout qualifying and postpone the race until after the STP 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event on Sunday afternoon.
A quick turnaround for the teams Sunday would initiate controlled chaos, but the green flag waived on time, just after 5:30 p.m. After starting 19th, Mingus maintained a position inside the top-20 through the event’s first caution on Lap 11.
Steadily holding competitive lap times on the track, the teenager had slipped back to the 21st position, but Rette utilized the competition caution on Lap 34 to bring the No. 35 Call 811 Before You Dig Toyota Tundra to pit road. Stout work by the Win-Tron Racing pit crew entered Mingus back on the track in the 17th position, after bolting on four new tires, adding fuel and making a chassis adjustment.
On the restart, Mingus began methodically marching forward, moving into 16th by Lap 50 and entering the top-15 on Lap 61 after making the pass on German Quiroga. While remaining quiet on the radio, Mingus would continue to fight for that spot inside the top-15, but the 19-year old spun his truck on Lap 92 and made significant contact to the turn three wall.
Able to drive away from the incident, Mingus brought his Toyota Tundra to pit road to the attention of Rette and his team, where they determined they needed to go behind the pit wall for repairs.
A short time later, the Win-Tron Racing development driver would return to the track, but 37 laps down to the leaders. While out of contention for a good finish, the team utilized the remaining laps for their driver to gain more experience on the tour. Furthermore, the team was able to pick up a few more positions on track to collect a 29th place finish, when the checkered flag waived.
“There were a lot of positives that we can take away from the race at Martinsville and carry to the other short tracks, along with our return to Martinsville later in the year,” said Mingus. “Despite not getting the finish I wanted, I was very happy with our truck. I felt like we had a solid top-10 truck. We came a long way from when we unloaded for practice to the green flag.
“Mark (Rette, crew chief) did a great job making adjustments and getting me comfortable in the truck. I feel bad for all our sponsors, 811 Call Before You Dig and Market Madness!, they deserved much better. I got a little too impatient early in the race. You have to be aggressive to be successful at Martinsville. However, it is a very fine line and I crossed it. We’ll move forward and look to get into a rhythm and get ourselves back on track.”
Nate Thiesse, co-truck owner of Win-Tron Racing offered his thoughts on the Kroger 250. “We made steady progress during the weekend. Mason did a great job getting the No. 35 Call 811 Before You Dig Toyota Tundra into the top-15, but then ran into some trouble. It’s part of the game. We’re proud of Mason and the team for their hard work and we’ll bounce back at Kansas Speedway, a place Mason’s familiar with.”